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Grey  Cloud  island,  about  five  miles  long  and  one  to  two 
miles  wide,  is  situated  in  the  south  end  of  Washington  county, 
Minnesota,  between  St.  Paul  and  Hastings.  It  is  bounded  on 
the  west  end  and  south  side  by  the  Mississippi  river,  and  on 
the  north  side  and  east  end  by  the  Grey  Cloud  creek  or  slough. 

The  name  Grey  Cloud  in  the  Dakota  or  Sioux  language  is 
Mar-pi-ya-ro-to,  with  the  addition  of  one  more  syllable,  win, 
meaning  woman.  It  was  the  Sioux  name  of  both  the  wife  and 
the  daughter  of  James  Aird,  an  Indian  trader.  The  wife,  first 
bearing  this  name,  was  a  sister  of  the  Sioux  Chief  Wabasha 
who  took  part  in  the  war  between  the  United  States,  and  Eng- 
land in  1812,  and  her  father's  name  also  was  Wabasha.  She 
was  born  at  her  father's  village,  where  the  city  of  Winona  now 
stands,  and  died  in  1844  at  Black  Dog's  village,  sometimes 
called  Grey  Iron's  village,  about  six  miles  southwest  of  Men- 
dota,  on  the  Minnesota  river  in  what  is  now  Eagan  township, 
Dakota  county.  She  was  buried  in  one  of  the  Indian  burial 
grounds  near  their  village.  Her  marriage  to  Aird  was  in  1783 
or  soon  afterward,  and  they  had  one  child,  a  girl  named  Mar- 

James  Aird  was  a  Scotchman,  born  in  Ayrshire,  and  is  said 
to  have  been  a  cousin  of  Robert  Burns,  the  poet.  He  came  to 
America  about  1783,  landing  at  Quebec,  and  probably  in  that 
year  came  to  Wabasha 's  village  as  a  trader  in  the  employ  of 
the  Hudson  Bay  Company.  He  afterward  went  to  Prairie  du 
Chien  for  the  same  company,  where  Joseph  Rolette,  Sr.,  was 
at  the  head  of  the  company's  trading  post.  Aird  died  at  Prairie 
du  Chien  in  the  fall  of  1819  or  1820.  Hazen  Mooers,  the  well 

*Read  at  the  monthly  meeting  of  the  Executive  Council,  May  13,  1912. 


known  trader  among  the  Sioux,  who  came  to  what  is  now  Min- 
nesota in  1819,  and  Aird's  granddaughter,  Jane  Anderson, 
were  present  when  he  died.  A  part  of  this  information  was 
obtained  from  this  Jane  Anderson,  afterward  Mrs.  Andrew 
Eobertson,  who  died  at  the  Sisseton  Agency  in  South  Dakota, 
or  at  Brown's  Valley,  Minn.,  in  the  fall  of  1905. 

Margaret  Aird  was  married  to  Captain  Thomas  Anderson 
about  1805  at  Prairie  du  Chien.  He  was  an  officer  in  the  British 
army,  and  took  part  in  the  capture  of  Fort  McKay  at  that  place 
in  the  war  of  1812.  He  was  born  at  Cornwall,  Canada,  in  Jan- 
uary, 1778,  and  died  at  Port  Hope,  Canada,  in  1874.  They  had 
three  children,  Mary,  Angus  M.  (an  early  Indian  trader  in 
Minnesota),  and  Jane,  who  married  Andrew  Robertson,  head 
farmer  for  the  government  at  the  Yellow  Medicine  Agency,  and 
afterward  superintendent  of  Indian  schools  on  the  reserva- 
tion, from  about  1854  to  1858. 

In  the  Dakota  language  Margaret  Aird  was  named  Mar-pi- 
ya-ro-to-win,  the  same  as  her  mother.  She  separated  from 
Captain  Anderson  after  they  had  been  married  about  eight 
years,  and  later  married  Hazen  Mooers,  who  was  the  first  agent 
or  trader  for  the  American  Fur  Company  at  Lake  Traverse, 
Minnesota,  building  the  trading  post  at  that  place.  Margaret 
was  with  him  there,  and  also  at  the  next  post  where  he  was 
stationed,  called  Little  Rock,  in  the  west  part  of  the  present 
Nicollet  county,  on  the  Minnesota  river.  Mooers  and  his  fam- 
ily removed  in  1838  from  Little  Rock  to  what  is  now  called 
Grey  Cloud  island.  They  were  accompanied  by  Andrew  Rob- 
ertson and  family,  and  also  by  Joseph  R.  Brown,  who  was  well 
known  to  nearly  all  the  pioneers  and  traders  of  those  early 
times.  They  all  came  there  together  on  the  same  day. 

Mooers  and  Robertson  took  possession  of  three  large  bark 
lodges  on  the  west  end  of  the  island,  which  had  been  vacated 
in  the  preceding  autumn  by  Medicine  Bottle's  band  of  Sioux, 
when  they  moved  across  the  river  to  their  new  village  at  Pine 
Bend,  in  Dakota  county.  Brown  built  a  log  house  farther  east 
or  down  the  river.  It  was  while  living  on  this  island,  from 
1838  to  1847,  that  Andrew  Robertson  named  it  Grey  Cloud 
island,  after  his  mother-in-law,  Margaret  Aird  Mooers,  whose 


name,  in  its  English  translation,  like  that  of  her  mother,  was 
Grey  Cloud.  Margaret  died  at  Black  Dog's  village  in  1850, 
and  was  buried  there. 

The  band  of  which  Medicine  Bottle  was  chief  had  its  origin 
through  the  dissatisfaction  of  some  members  of  the  band  of 
Big  Thunder  and  of  Little  Crow,  father  of  the  chief  of  that 
name  who  led  the  Sioux  massacre  in  1862.  Previous  to  the 
treaty  of  1837,  their  village  was  on  the  east  bank  of  the  Mis- 
sissippi river  about  two  miles  below  the  present  city  of  St. 
Paul.  After  this  treaty,  by  which  the  Sioux  ceded  their  lands 
east  of  the  Mississippi,  they  removed  the  village  to  the  west 
bank  of  the  river,  where  it  was  known  to  the  early  settlers  as 
Kaposia,  on  the  site  of  South  Park,  near  the  South  St.  Paul 
stock  yards.  A  few  families  of  that  band  left  the  old  village 
on  the  east  side  and  chose  as  their  leader  a  noted  counselor  and 
medicine  man  named  Waukan-ojan-jan,  meaning  Spirit  Light 
or  Holy  Light,  as  translated  into  English  by  his  daughter,  but 
called  Medicine  Bottle  by  the  early  fur  traders  and  pioneers. 

They  went  down  the  river  about  eight  miles  and  built  some 
large  bark  and  willow  lodges  on  the  northwest  end  of  Grey 
Cloud  island,  where  they  lived  and  had  their  fields  and  gardens 
until  the  autumn  of  1837.  Two  of  their  vacated  lodges  were 
occupied  the  next  year,  as  before  noted,  by  Mooers  and  Rob- 
ertson with  their  families,  and  the  third  one  was  used  by  them 
as  a  storehouse.  In  May,  1839,  these  men  built  two  log  houses, 
with  stone  chimneys,  near  the  river,  and  they  farmed  a  part 
of  the  gardens  and  cornfields  formerly  cultivated  by  the  In- 
dians. That  year  they  raised  potatoes,  corn,  and  garden  truck, 
some  of  which  they  sold  at  Fort  Snelling  for  the  use  of  the 
officers  and  troops ;  and  in  1840  they  raised  some  grain  on  these 
fields  and  sold  a  part  of  it  at  the  fort.  These  notes  of  early 
farming  on  Grey  Cloud  island  were  told  to  me  by  Mrs.  Mary 
Brown,  a  daughter  of  Hazen  Mooers,  wife  of  John  W.  Brown, 
who  was  a  half  brother  of  the  distinguished  Joseph  R.  Brown. 
Their  marriage  was  on  this  island,  on  New  Year's  day  in  1846. 

In  the  fall  of  1837  or  the  spring  of  1838,  Medicine  Bottle 
and  his  band  moved  across  the  Mississippi  to  the  west  bank  a 
short  distance  farther  south,  at  the  place  called  by  the  early 
French  and  Canadian  voyageurs  Pin  de  Tour,  now  known  as 


Pine  Bend.  The  meaning  of  both  these  names  is  "The  bend 
in  the  river  where  the  pine  trees  are."  Some  of  these  white 
pines  are  still  standing  there  on  the  side  of  the  bluff,  being  con- 
spicuously seen  from  the  decks  of  passing  steamboats.  A  large 
village  of  bark  and  willow  ho/uses  or  lodges  was  built  at  this 
place,  and  sometimes  beside  the  permanent  lodges  there  were 
many  tepees  of  poles  and  skins  during  the  spring  and  fall  hunt- 
ing seasons. 

The  situation  of  this  village  was  a  fine  one  for  the  Indians. 
The  marshes  and  heavy  timber  on  the  bottomlands  around 
Spring  lake  and  Belanger  island,  east  of  them,  in  what  is  now 
Nininger  township,  were  full  of  small  game,  such  as  geese, 
ducks,  muskrats  and  mink;  and  on  the  high  land  were  found 
the  prairie  chicken,  foxes,  partridges  and  quail,  and  pigeons 
by  the  thousands  that  sometimes  nested  and  roosted  in  the 
heavy  timber  on  Belanger  island.  The  timber  consisted  of 
soft  maple,  cottonwood,  elm,  hackberry,  and  ash,  most  of  which 
was  still  standing  in  1856  when  I  came  to  Nininger.  The  wild 
pigeons  had  their  roosts  and  nests  on  this  island  in  1859.  The 
last  that  I  saw  of  their  great  flocks,  which  were  sometimes  one 
to  two  miles  long,  transverse  to  their  course  of  flight,  but 
usually  not  more  than  fifty  feet  wide,  was  in  the  spring  and 
summer  of  1871.  Flock  after  flock  followed  each  other,  at 
short  intervals,  sometimes  for  several  days. 

Spring  lake,  southeast  of  this  village  a  short  distance,  was 
alive  with  large  fish,  among  which  were  catfish,  buffalo,  pike-, 
and  pickerel,  also  sunfish  and  other  small  kinds.  In  the  win- 
ter of  1856-57  our  people  went  up  to  the  primitive  sawmill  near 
the  junction  of  Spring  lake  and  Belanger  sloughs,  shut  down 
the  gates  to  the  flume,  and  threw  out  so  many  of  these  large 
fish  as  to  fill  half  a  wagon  box. 

The  land  on  which  this  Sioux  village  stood,  together  with 
their  gardens  and  cornfields,  was  afterward  pre-empted  by 
"William  A.  Bissell,  the  first  white  settler  at  Pine  Bend,  in  the 
present  Inver  Grove  township,  Dakota  county.  The  village 
was  near  the  river  under  the  bluffs,  on  government  lot  10, 
section  35;  and  the  gardens  and  cornfields  were  on  the  hill, 
on  the  south  half  of  the  southeast  quarter  and  on  the  southeast 
quarter  of  the  southwest  quarter  of  section  34,  Inver  Grove. 


Bissell  first  visited  Medicine  Bottle's  village  in  1849  or 
1850;  and  in  1851  Medicine  Bottle  allowed  him  to  put  up  a 
small  log  shack  under  and  near  the  bluff,  perhaps  a  quarter  or 
half  a  mile  north  or  northwest  of  their  village.  He  moved  his 
family  down  from  Red  Rock  with  a  span  of  horses  and  sled, 
on  the  ice  late  in  the  fall  of  1851,  and  occupied  this  shack. 
The  family  had  been  living  with  some  of  the  early  settlers  and 
missionaries  at  Red  Rock,  among  whom  were  John  A.  Ford, 
Mr.  Irish,  Mr.  Holton,  and  others.  In  1852  Bissell  built  a 
hewed  log  house,  covering  it  with  shingles  split  mostly  from 
oak  logs ;  and  the  same  year  he  raised  some  potatoes,  corn,  and 
garden  stuff.  He  paid  for  this  land  August  6,  1855,  and  his 
receipt  was  signed  by  the  government  receiver,  R.  P.  Russell, 
of  Minneapolis. 

The  old  Indian  trail  from  Wabasha's  village,  on  the  site-  of 
Winona,  to  Little  Crow's  village,  at  Kaposia,  or  a  branch  of 
this  trail,  ran  into  Medicine  Bottle's  village  and  out  again 
through  what  was  afterward  known  as  Bissell's  coulie.  Also 
a  branch  from  this  trail  went  to  Fort  Snelling.  Captain  John 
Tapper,  the  first  ferryman  at  Minneapolis,  who  died  in  1909, 
told  me  that  he  came  over  this  trail  in  the  fall  of  1844  from 
Lake  Pepin  to  Mendota.  He  said  that  it  was  nearly  dark  when 
he  and  his  companions  arrived  at  Medicine  Bottle's  village, 
and  they  stayed  there  all  night.  The  chief  entertained  them 
as  well  as  circumstances  would  permit,  and  the  next  morning 
they  followed  the  trail  to  Mendota  and  were  ferried  across  the 
Minnesota  river  to  Fort  Snelling. 

In  1853  William  Strathern  of  Rich  Valley,  Dakota  county, 
and  "William  Senescall,  took  claims  within  a  mile  or  two  of 
Bissell.  These  two  men  in  the  spring  of  that  year  ploughed  a 
part  of  the  Indian  cornfield  for  Bissell,  and  he  put  it  into 
wheat.  This  wheat  was  cut  with  a  cradle  and  threshed  with 
a  flail  by  Walter  Strathern,  a  brother  of  William,  later  in  the 
fall  or  winter.  Walter  is  now  living  on  his  original  pre-emp- 
tion claim  taken  in  1853  at  Rich  Valley.  A  part  of  this  wheat 
was  hauled  by  William  Strathern  around  by  the  way  of  St. 
Paul  and  Cottage  Grove  to  the  grist  mill  of  Lemuel  Bolles  in 
Afton,  where  it  was  made  into  flour.  William  Senescall  was 


living  at  Stewart  or  Glencoe,  Minn.,  a  few  years  ago;  he  was 
a  member  of  Company  F,  Hatch's  Battalion. 

Medicine  Bottle  and  his  band  lived  at  Pine  Bend  fifteen 
years,  leaving  there  for  the  new  Sioux  Reservation  on  the  up- 
per Minnesota  river  in  the  fall  of  1852.  Both  the  chief  and  his 
wife  were  true  friends  and  neighbors  of  the  Bissell  family,  and 
just  before  they  left  for  their  new  home  they  came  to  the  Bis- 
sell home  to  bid  them  good-bye.  They  had  their  faces  painted 
and  ran  out  of  the  house,  threw  themselves  on  the  ground,  and 
carried  on  their  lamentations  after  the  Indian  fashion  of  ex- 
pressing sorrow  at  the  loss  of  friends  or  relatives.  They  felt 
very  badly  on  account  of  having  to  leave  the  Bissells  and  their 
old  home  and  hunting  grounds.  Mr.  Bissell  died  at  Sauk  Cen- 
ter in  December,  1871,  and  was  buried  there. 

The  third  and  last  village  of  Medicine  Bottle  and  his  band 
in  Minnesota  was  one  mile  west  of  the  government  buildings 
at  the  Redwood  or  Lower  Sioux  Agency.  He  was  accidentally 
killed  near  his  lodge  or  house  in  this  village  before  the  out- 
break of  1862.  Outside  of  his  house  he  had  a  scaffold  erected 
for  drying  corn,  and  hanging  from  the  rafters  was  an  iron 
chain  with  a  sharp  hook  on  the  lower  end.  Some  of  his  family 
were  cleaning  or  cutting  up  a  wild  duck,  and  he  was  feeding 
his  chickens,  when  one  of  them  ran  off  with  a  piece  of  the  duck. 
The  chief  ran  to  catch  it  but  stumbled,  and  in  falling  the  sharp 
hook  caught  him  in  the  mouth,  penetrating  his  brain.  He  ex- 
pired in  a  few  minutes  from  hemorrhage.  He  was  attended  by 
Dr.  Asa  "W.  Daniels,  the  government  physician  at  the  Redwood 
Agency,  now  living  in  Pomona,  California,  who  has  supplied 
this  account  of  his  death.  Dr.  Daniels  further  writes : 

We  looked  upon  Medicine  Bottle  as  a  civilized  Indian.  He  lived 
in  a  frame  house,  cultivated  a  plot  of  ground,  did  not  believe  in  con- 
juration nor  practice  it,  but  possessed  considerable  knowledge  in  bleed- 
ing, cupping,  and  the  hot  steam  bath,  and  kept  medicinal  barks,  roots, 
and  herbs,  which  he  used  in  cases  of  sickness.  He  was  an  Indian  of 
much  ability,  honest,  truthful,  and  bore  the  duties  of  life  faithfully, 
and  always  gave  good  advice  and  worthy  example  to  the  others  of  his 

Another  Sioux  whose  name  in  English  was  Medicine  Bottle, 
also  called  Grizzly  Bear,  a  nephew  of  this  chief  and  son  of  Grey 


Iron,  took  part  in  the  massacre,  for  which  he  and  the  young 
chief  Shakopee,  called  Little  Six,  having  been  captured  in  1864, 
were  tried  by  a  military  commission  at  Fort  Snelling  and  were 
hung  there  November  11,  1865. 

The  site  of  the  city  of  Hastings  was  earlier  called  Oliver's 
Grove,  after  Lieut.  William  G.  Oliver,  who  was  ascending  the 
Mississippi  with  one  or  more  keel  boats  late  in  the  autumn  of 

1819,  but  was  prevented  from  going  farther  by  a  gorge  of  ice 
in  the  bend  of  the  river  opposite  to  this  city.    The  boat  or  boats 
were  probably  run  up  to  the  outlet  of  Lake  Rebecca,  to  be  out 
of  the  way  of  the  ice  when  the  river  broke  up  in  the  spring  of 

1820.  Lieutenant  Oliver  was  on  his  way  from  Fort  Crawford 
at  Prairie  du  Chien  with  supplies  for  the  soldiers  at  St.  Peter's 
camp,  now  Fort  Snelling,  among  whom  was  the  first  settler  of 
Hastings,  Joe  Brown,  the  drummer  boy,  then  about  fourteen 
years  of  age. 

Oliver  passed  the  winter  here  with  some  soldiers  guarding 
these  supplies.  I  imagine  that  he  put  up  a  log  c'amp  on  the 
bottomland  near  where  his  boats  were  tied,  as  it  was  covered 
with  very  large  elm  and  maple  trees,  which  with  the  smaller 
growth  of  willows  and  maples  along  the  riverside  would  pro- 
tect the  camp  from  the  northwest  wind  and  also  furnish  plenty 
of  fuel. 

When  I  first  saw  the  bottomlands  on  the  long  island  ad- 
joining Lake  Rebecca,  between  Nininger  and  Hastings,  they 
were  covered  with  heavy  timber,  soft  maple,  white  and  black 
ash,  elm,  cottonwood,  and  hackberry;  and  on  the  lower  end  of 
the  island,  next  to  the  river  for  half  a  mile,  was  a  dense  grove 
of  willows  and  small  maples  so  close  together  in  some  places 
that  one  could  not  get  through  them.  I  was  quite  familiar  with 
these  woods  and  also  Oliver's  Grove  when  I  was  young,  be- 
cause my  father's  stock  at  Nininger  was  pastured  on  these 
bottoms  and  I  had  to  drive  the  cows  home  at  night  during  the 
summer  months,  sometimes  finding  them  as  far  down  the  river 
as  Oliver's  Grove. 

After  leaving  the  army,  Joseph  R.  Brown  commenced  to 
trade  with  the  Indians  about  the  year  1826.  He  had  a  trad- 
ing post  in  1832  at  St.  Croix  Falls,  Wisconsin,  which  he  left 


in  a  boat  or  canoe  on  one  of  the  last  days  of  July  in  that  year, 
coming  down  the  St.  Croix  to  its  mouth  and  thence  up  the 
Mississippi  to  Oliver's  Grove.  Here  he  built  a  one-story  log 
house  on  what  was  afterward  platted  as  Lot  1,  Block  12,  of  the 
original  townsite  of  Hastings,  at  the  southwest  corner  of 
Second  and  Vermillion  streets.  This  house  stood  in  a  beauti- 
ful grove  of  white  and  bur  oaks.  An  extensive  belt  of  oak 
woods,  including  white,  bur,  black,  and  red  oaks,  continued 
thence  three  miles  northwest  along  the  bank  of  Lake  Rebecca 
and  on  the  second  plateau  above  the  river,  to  the  home  of  my 
father,  James  R.  Case,  in  section  18,  Nininger.  The  grove  in 
Hastings  extended  south  as  far  as  to  the  site  of  Hon.  Albert 
Schaller's  home,  on  Fifth  street,  where  some  of  its  large  trees 
yet  remain. 




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